Efes wins its first EuroLeague crown
Anadolu Efes Istanbul is the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion for the first time! Efes outlasted FC Barcelona 81-86 on Sunday night in the championship game of the 2021 Final Four at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany. The victory made all the players on the team champions for the first time as well as Ergin Ataman, who became the first Turkish-born head coach to lift the trophy. Barcelona came back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter and was within 1 with 3:25 remaining, but Vasilije Micic scored 7 points in the final 3 minutes to make sure Efes went home with the trophy. Micic finished with 25 points and 5 assists, while his backcourt mate Shane Larkin added 21 points. Sertac Sanli chipped in with 12 for the winners. Cory Higgins led Barcelona with 23 points and Kyle Kuric netted 18. Brandon Davies tallied 17 points and 11 rebounds and Nikola Mirotic added 11 and 9 for Barcelona, which came up short in its bid to win its third continental crown and first since 2010.
Barcelona opened the scoring on the game's first possession through a Victor Claver tip-in before Davies picked Krunoslav Simon's pocket and raced for a slam. Sanli scored twice inside to get Efes going. Sanli remained a weapon inside; his three-point play and a free throw on the next possession gave Efes a 6-8 lead. Davies went to work for Barcelona with a basket-plus-foul on the offensive glass, a score in the paint and drawing 2 fouls from Sanli. After Chris Singleton's free throws briefly gave Efes the lead, Davies put back his own miss and Higgins drilled a three-pointer. Kuric added a free throw and a layup to make it 20-13. After Micic free throws and a fastbreak bucket from Kuric, Barcelona led 22-15 after 10 minutes. A basket-plus-foul from Leandro Bolmaro in transition gave Barcelona a double-digit advantage. Adrien Moerman's tip started the Efes revival. Bolmaro committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Larkin after a steal and the resulting free throws and a Tibor Pleiss triple – Efes's first of the game – made it 25-22, prompting a Barcelona timeout. Simon capped a 0-9 run with a bank shot. Alex Abrines and Higgins gave Barcelona some breathing room with free throws only to see Larkin attack and get to the free-throw line, from where he made 6 shots in a 0-12 run that gave Efes a 29-36 lead. Bolmaro ended the Barcelona drought and Kuric drilled a three from the corner and made a pair of free throws. Rodrigue Beaubois split free throws with 1 second left in the second quarter to send the teams to the locker rooms at halftime with the score 36-39.
Micic scored on either side of an offensive foul called on Higgins as Efes jumped ahead 39-46. Mirotic got his first points of the game, but a four-point play by Micic made it 41-52. Kuric and Larkin traded threes. Higgins shined with a block, a layup and a pull-up three, but Micic was only getting stronger for Efes and Bryant Dunston and Beaubois added points for Efes from the line. Mirotic hit a three to bring Barcelona within 58-65 at the end of the third quarter. A jumper by Bolmaro early in the fourth quarter drew Barcelona within 3. Sanli countered with an alley-oop dunk courtesy of an assist from Larkin. Davies made a wide-open three and then fed Mirotic for a bucket that tied it at 69-69 with 5 minutes left, which caused Efes to call timeout. Micic responded with a three from the top of the key only to see Higgins answer with a three-point play. Larkin hit back with a basket-plus-foul, too. After Davies and Singleton traded baskets, Micic drove for a layup that made it 74-79 with less than 3 minutes remaining. Micic matched Higgins's free throws with a basket in penetration. Davies missed a three and Kuric missed on the break as Barcelona started to run out of time. Larkin added 2 free throws for a 7-point lead with 32.7 seconds to go and Barcelona missed its next 2 shots. Kuric gave Barcelona hope when he made 3 free throws with 12.1 seconds on the clock to make it 81-84, but Micic got to the line and iced the game with 7.3 seconds left.
Davies in the double-double club
Barcelona big man Brandon Davies finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double in a EuroLeague Final Four game. The first came in the semifinals at the 2018 Final Four in Belgrade when he amassed 12 points and 11 rebounds for Zalgiris Kaunas in a loss against Fenerbahce Istanbul. In doing so, Davies became just the sixth player since the turn of the century to century to collect multiple double-doubles at the Final Four. The others are Gustavo Ayon with Real Madrid, Ekpe Udoh with Fenerbahce, Kornel David with Tau Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, Mike Batiste with Panathinaikos Athens and Mirsad Turkcan with both Montepaschi Siena and CSKA Moscow.
Larkin's free-throw record
Shane Larkin set a EuroLeague record for the best free-throw shooting night in a championship game this century. The Efes guard was perfect in 12 trips to the foul line. The record had been shared by Milos Vujanic (Panathinaikos, 2007) and Tyrese Rice (2014 with Maccabi Tel Aviv)\, who were both 9 for 9 in championship games. Larkin tied Ramunas Siskauskas (Panathinaikos, 2007) and Manu Ginobili (Kinder Bologna, 2002) for the most free throws made in the championship game.
The big difference in the numbers came in two-point shooting, with Efes making 56.4% of its shots inside the arc, while holding Barcelona to 46.0%. Efes improved to 24-0 on the season when scoring at least 80 points in a game.
Efes's EuroLeague triumph marks the first time since Zalgiris Kaunas won in 1999 that a team won the crown without any previous champions on its roster. All of Efes's players and Coach Ergin Ataman are first-time champs. For Ataman, the victory represents his fourth continental trophy. He previously won the Saporta Cup, the FIBA EuroChallenge and the 7DAYS EuroCup.
Sunday, May 30, 2021